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Friday, April 09, 2010



Amen! Clarity at last! Fr Fessio rocks.

Joe H

Thank you for this clear explanation.

Mrs. O

I didn't realize he went on to marry.

I think the hardest to comprehend or accept now is that if a Bishop had known of the abuse, the abuser should have been removed completely. The confusion, for me at least, is that if Rome or any one else had known, that although it wasn't under their authority at the time to remove them for that reason (abuse of minor), strong suggestions or commands to remove them completely should have come.
Of course, it wasn't till recently that I learned that the cases are sent to Rome (2001).
And that would answer that concern.


The question is, who is feeding the media all these garbage? I smell an inside job. Someone who doesn't want the Holy Father and wants him gone!


I agree with everything here, but I urge Fr. Fessio to stop offering defenses. It just won't help. It looks . . . defensive.


To me; it is not a defense, it is first and foremost the Truth. Something that the liberal bent press has a hard time understanding! They sell papers; we reflect truth!

Carl E. Olson

When dealing with something as offensive as these "news stories," one needs to be defensive, in the proper sense of defending those being unfairly attacked and revealing the truth of the matter. As all of my coaches in various sports told me over the years: "Defense wins championships." The history of the Church, going back to St. Peter and St. Paul, is filled with examples of defending the Gospel, the Church, and Catholic doctrine. I'm not sure why we should stop now.


Thank you so much for posting this.

I am in the process of e-mailing a link to it to as many news media outlets that continue to post this as a "top story" on their sites. I hope others do the same.

Keep up the good work!

Francis Beckwith

Mrs. O writes:

"I think the hardest to comprehend or accept now is that if a Bishop had known of the abuse, the abuser should have been removed completely."

The problem, as it is in every area in which authority is exercised, is what counts as "knowing." If, for example, you were a male high school teacher and two female students went to the principal and accused you of hitting on them, does that count as the principal "knowing." If so, then accusations count as knowledge. But if that's the case, then due process is a detriment to "justice."

Interestingly enough, this priest was convicted by prosecutors in the Bay Area, and given probation (and thus no prison time). This was the late 1970s and the BAY AREA. You'd think the reporter--if he had just half a wit--would know that at that time in the sexual revolution, and especially in the Bay Area, the idea of minors and adults having sex was avant garde and hip, e.g., Roman Polanski. (Who can forget Time Magazine's 1980 piece on the pro-incest lobby:,9171,923966-1,00.html Notice the names of prominent individuals associated with "respected" organizations). Perhaps the reporter, if he was really interested in justice, would have inquired as to why the government went so easy on this fellow. Is it because the government was constrained by laws that did not take adult-minor sex that seriously, or that the cultural climate at the time was not particularly troubled about such liaisons? I remember the late 1970s. (Graduated from high school in 1978). This was the age of Pretty Baby and "Pedophile Chic." If anything, the cultural climate in which this priest found himself was welcoming and non-judgmental. It would behoove the reporter--again, if he really cared about justice--to bring to his readers' attention that the late 1970s was the world in which pedophile enthusiasts like Harry Hay were considered "heroes" in the gay rights movements, just as Kevin Jennings (Obama's safe-school czar) says of him today. What would happen if Pope Benedict had appointed someone who made comments like Jennings' to any position of authority in the Church? The press would go nuclear and rightfully so. What would happen if Pope Benedict had unilaterally removed as priests Drinin, Curran, McBrien, etc.? He would be accused of creating an ecclesiastical version of "Bush's Gitmo." So, always remember this: the purpose of trashing the Pope by many in the media (though certainly not all) is not to protect children. The purpose is to make sure that future generations of children are not shaped by the Church's teachings on the sanctity of life and human sexuality. For if they really cared about children--unborn and born alike--they would be just as angry about Obama, Jennings, and abortion as they would be about wicked priests. But wicked priests serve the purpose of making the world safe for Obama, Jennings and abortion. Just because you hate a Church that has members that hurt children does not mean that you are really interested in protecting those children.


Fr. Fessio: "Secondly, nothing at all prevents a bishop from: removing a priest from all ministry; removing his faculties; reporting him to civil authorities. There is no need even to inform Rome about this."
Too bad this obvious truth was more honored in the breach than the observance! Let's get serious about protecting the flock. A shepherd's crook is supposed to be used against predators.

Lori Pieper

Thank you, Fr. Fessio, for supplying this much-needed context. I have a story up of my own, in which I plan to add a link to this article.


Thank you Father Fessio for letting the truth be known. The defamation of Pope Benedict by the NYT continues relentlessly. Today (Saturday April 10) the NYT prints a rehash of the same false story about this perverted priest in their front page, top left column.

For progressives the Church has been the enemy for the longest time. Think French Revolution. The particular problem they have with with Pope Benedict XVI is that he has written down his teachings in dozens of books which will long survive him. Benedict is a defender of Catholic Tradition. One might want to read his recent "Jesus of Nazareth" about the historical reality of Jesus. If you are interested in Faith and Reason read Ratzinger's "In the Beginning" on how Evolution can be reconciled with the need of a redeemer that is the Son of the Creator. If you are a Traditional Catholic you might want to read Ratzinger's "The Spirit of the Liturgy" on how the Mass was developed over two millenia and why its continuity with tradition should be defended. If you want to find out what holiness is like, one can read Benedict's 2007 Encyclical Spe Salvi (

Importantly, Benedict XVI lifted the prohibition on the traditional Latin Mass established by Vatican II. While being reintroduced too slowly, the coexistence of the Latin form of the Mass with the politically correct new ordinary mass will strengthen the Catholic Church. I had the wondeful opportunity of attending the entire Extraordinary Easter Trivuum here in the Los Angeles Archdiose (!). On Good Friday it included the prayer for the conversion of the Chosen Tribe.

The Vatican represents one of the last defenses against the complete secularization of Western Civilization. For this and other reasons, godless Marxists feel obligated to destroy Benedict XVI personally. Together with him they will bring down Pope John Paul II during whose pontificate these cases first surfaced.

The Catholic Church has lasted 2000 years and these powerful weaklings will not be able to destroy it.

Thank you Fr. Fessio for Ignatius Press receiving your catalogues is always a welcome event at our home. You are the new Abbe Migne (1800-1875), the most famous editor of Catholic literature.

bill bannon

Aside from the Oakland priest matter, Fr. Fessio leaves me wondering how Pope John Paul II could stop laicizations for priests dramatically and yet not stop annulments as to their high rates....if the two are intertwined in terms of scandal.
Perhaps he felt helpless realistically that to inject himself into a local and evidentiary based process (annulments) wherein each case depends on vast detailed evidence and the interpretation of it and depends on behavioural truths brought out by that evidence whereas laicization does not except in cases wherein immaturity of decision was a factor pled by a priest. In such laicization cases based on deficient motivation at the outset, I hope those cases were not simply summarily ignored since they are based on truth as it happened back then within the vower just like in annulments.


I enjoyed Fr. Fessio's comments in a Margaret Warner interview where Fessio and Fr. James Martin discussed the related topics of the church's teachings on human sexuality and the admission of men to the seminary and priesthood. While Fr. Martin's comments of late have been helpful on being careful of just blaming the media, Fr. Fessio's comments were much more commensurate with my understanding of Catholic teaching on these subjects in that 2005 interview.

Moral relativism on Catholic teachings have in fact invaded the Church and are much at the root of the present pedofilia scandals and failure to act by some.

The theological understandings and teachings of the Sacramental nature of Holy Orders are beautiful. However, the Church cannot exempt itself from common sense and mandated reporting statues and negligence in a civil society.

The issues are still controlling as to Catholic canonical law and would not prevent the shameful and sinful person volutanrily leaving the Church and living his life in the manner in which he wishes to( he certainly was until that point). He could not then marry within the church. He will not be dispensed from his celibacy vows from the Church's teachings and authority and perspective.

There are grave theological and philosphical issues at risk for Catholicism but at what risk will they be played out or not expedited? Civil litigators and journalists are pushing the timeline up and forcing local Bishops and Rome to act in accordance with canonical laws that were on the books but were not used due to 1. sympathetic deviants on one hand and 2. those who wished to protect the church from scandal,etc.

Bishops denying faculties. Severe but necessary.
Defrocking from Rome. More severe certainly from Catholic theology but not from the victims or their families who are Catholics. The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.

All potential victims would be put on notice that this guy is no longer a priest. He is not "sponsored" by the Church any longer. The Bishops locally did not strip these guys of their faculties from Boston to Ireland. Even when Milwaukee or Oakland unsually reached out to Rome there was a delayed answer in both cases. Mercy for Murphy but not for the kids.

This cannot hold the scrutiny of common sense.

Sacramental authority cannot absolve the Church of negligence in a secular action. I am a defender of the Church daily professionally and personally.

However,the arguments being offered sink me further each time in my faith.

It is as Father Fessio states--it is the Sacrament of Holy Orders that the folks in the pew revere and respect from Baptising their children to First Holy Communion for our little ones to the daily Eucharist and frequent confessions. The sacredness of this is not lost on the people. Nor on the vast majority of the priests and religious.

The Church risks having it both ways--benefitting from yet blaming the folks afterwards for clericalism risks as in Ireland or stating that Holy Orders are so special that such vileness and evil could not ipso facto defrock a man from the priesthood..

And if so the marching orders from Rome would have to be generally as guideliness and specifically in such cases that their faculties would have to be suspended indefintely and they would be invited to confession and penance. How can such Holy Orders be so corrupted?

This logic is on a crash course with itself.

Marriage and Holy orders elevated and revered and calling for continual raising of the bar rather than the lower common denominator. I am all for it and act and teach accordingly. But within reason?

If there are no limits then Holy Orders and Marriage are denigrated in some cases.

The Church was at times negligent locally and from the Vatican's own words and nonactions in some of these cases from a simple law enforcement or legal background. The poor defensive arguments or the theological explanations without context and taking pains to see where both--canonical and common sense justice and mercy could have been employed are not helping the cause.

The sexual abusers were protected by the moral relativism that has invaded the church and the homosexual deviants amidst the clergy and hierarchy on one hand who looked the other way or particpated in such or similar behavior themselves at one time or another.

And now on the other hand those who we thought would police this sort of vile looked the other way from the Geoghan to Murphy to Maciel cases and beyond including gaslighting the victims.

The pedofiles were in effect protected by the left and the right, the heterodox and the orthodox albeit with different motives.

Clericalism in different colors

Fr Fessio was compelling vs Martin in 2005 and while he is a fine teacher on the issues he writes about here--it is evading the pink elephant in the room.

It is a question of Authority.

Where is the new John Newman? We need one now.


If you want to volunteer with kids in a parish or catholic school in California, you have to be fingerprinted and take a course about abuse and how to recognize it. The main thing is to never be alone a child. I do this because a small percentage of priests allowed satan to control their lives and the church organization acted slowly. Lay people need to get involved in their parish. It is the church of Jesus Christ not the church of father so-in-so. Don't let the press weaken your faith. Sin is pervasive throughout our society. How much Jesus suffers from the actions of these few priests and all sinners.


How come there is not a clamoring to line civil authorities up against the wall regarding their failures to protect children from this man? I understand that he received probation and court documents related to his crimes were destroyed as a condition of this light sentence.

I wish the press would remember there is no such thing as church jail. The final duty of protecting the public from criminal is with the state.


"Further, as if to prove this point, the priest in question continued to abuse children after he was "defrocked" and had married". QED.

What is even more sad, that if you take the "press' " logic about defrocking priests as an essential element to stopping abuse, then spouses of abusers should divorce them to help prevent child abuse.

Peter Paul Fuchs

Your defense seems premised on the idea that canon law is a special preserve. You may believe this. Others may believe this. But it is sheer folly for you to pretend surprise that others are not ready to extend that church law preeminence in dealing with cases that are so important societally. You are not extending even the basic courtesy, nay even the basic decency to other people's views. I understand that you are trying to defend what and whom you feel is sacred at this point, but it simply makes no sense. And it sounds completely anti-social, though I assume you don't mean it that way.



At that point in history, the CDF processed cases of voluntary laicization. That is why it was there. Of course, it was the Pope himself who grants the dispensation (something the author of the AP story did not realize).


This does not clarify anything I am sorry to say. It perhaps clouded the issue. The real question for me would at a minimum be the gradation of interest, certainly it would seem to me that accusations themselves cannot always be thoroughly scrutinized but accusations of sexual offenses involving a minor should have then as they do now been given the highest priority. In my estimation that is what seems to have been lacking. Other than that I believe it was handle as best as could be at the time.

John Pack Lambert

This man had been reported to civil authorities. He had been charged with a crime, and was put on probation, and then when he ended his probation, the record was suppressed.

This really points out that the flaws in treating sexual abuse of minors too lightly was endemic in society and not limited to the Catholic Church.

Deacon Jim

This article clears up the media's perspective (agenda?) on this matter. Is there some way to target this story to the mainstream media - even if initially to those that are predisposed toward viewing this as a postiive addition to the press on this matter. If so, it might eventually even find its way to being published or followed up by the biased mainstream media.

Brian J. Schuettler

"Your defense seems premised on the idea that canon law is a special preserve."

It is. The argument made by Archbishop Thomas Becket to Henry II of England nearly a thousand years ago is the same today. In matters regarding it's property and personnel, if you will, the Church is not subject to nor will it be dictated to by civil authority. This is not a question of personal views or public perceptions. It is a matter of who has authority in and over Christ's Church.

Alicia de Colombí-Monguió

Thank you, Father Fessio, for the clarification.

I certainly would not defrock a priest, and send him into society at large. I recommend the old Medieval solution: send the offender under obedience to an isolated cloistered monastery, for penance the rest of his life.

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